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Hodgson, William Hope

Entry updated 11 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1877-1918) UK author who ran away to sea in his youth and was deeply affected by his experiences aboard ship: he never lost a profound fascination, reflected in all his poetry and most of his stories and essays, for the mysteries of the sea. His first published story was "The Goddess of Death" for Royal Magazine in April 1904. His fantastic sea stories – the first was "From the Tideless Sea" (April 1906 Monthly Story Magazine; exp with addition of "More News from the Homebird" [August 1907 Blue Book] in Men of the Deep Waters, coll 1914) – owe an obvious debt to the traditions of supernatural fiction, but he derived his horrific imagery mainly from the scientific imagination. Notable examples are "The Voice in the Night" (November 1907 Blue Book), in which castaways are transformed by a fungus they have been obliged to eat – this was filmed as Matango (1963; vt Attack of the Mushroom People; vt Fungus of Terror) directed by Ishirō Honda – and "The Stone Ship" (1 July 1914 Red Magazine as "The Mystery of the Ship in the Night"; exp in The Luck of the Strong, coll 1916), in which an ancient wreck is raised to the surface by a volcanic eruption, bringing many weird creatures with it. The allegorical aspect of Hodgson's novels embodies a conviction that horrid evil forces move beneath the surface of reality as it seems to our limited Perception, sometimes becoming vilely manifest in creatures such as the spirit which possesses the Scientist in the blasphemous fantasy "The Baumoff Explosion" (17 September 1919 Nash's Illustrated Weekly; vt "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani" Fall 1973 Weird Tales) and the cosmic entity manifested in "The Hog" (January 1947 Weird Tales), the last of his Carnacki series of stories featuring a scientific Occult Detective [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] who focused on hauntings and other seemingly supernatural occurrences, related as Club Stories and gathered as Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (coll 1913; exp 1947) (see Carnacki). Some of these tales deal with supernatural entities; others have rational explanations which may be revealed by shrewd use of photography. Carnacki's favourite defence against cosmic horrors is the Technology-based Electric Pentacle, whose efficacy is improved by research as the series continues.

His strongest short story after "The Voice in the Night" is "The Derelict" (1 December 1912 Red Magazine), in which an abandoned ship is found to be covered by a single dangerous, fungoid living organism, presumably evolved over time from chemicals aboard the ship in a hot, damp climate. Hodgson's focus on horror with a scientific rather than a supernatural basis anticipates the fiction of H P Lovecraft. The Carnacki stories in particular, with their references to the medieval "Sigsand MS" and invading entities called the "Outer Monstrosities", anticipate the Cthulhu Mythos. Some of Hodgson's other more important works include dislocations in Time and space, and besiegement by Alien entities and unknown species, often originating Under the Sea, as plot elements.

Some of his short stories were collected in Men of the Deep Waters (coll 1914), The Luck of the Strong (coll 1916) and Captain Gault, Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain (coll 1917; cut 1918), though the last has no fantastic material. A selection of this material is reprinted in the Arkham House collection Deep Waters (coll 1967). Some of his stories were further reprinted in Masters of Terror, Volume One: William Hope Hodgson (coll 1977); some hitherto unreprinted or little-known stories were assembled in Out of the Storm: Uncollected Stories (coll 1975), The Haunted "Pampero": Uncollected Fantasies and Mysteries (coll 1992) and Terrors of the Sea (coll 1996), each volume edited and featuring biographical essays by Sam Moskowitz; R Alain Everts's Strange Company issued in 1988 the Manuscript Series of fifteen booklets [for details see Checklist] containing stories by Hodgson in their magazine versions (some had been revised for book publication). Other booklets containing previously unreprinted stories are the British Fantasy Society's William Hope Hodgson: A Centenary Tribute 1877-1977 (coll 1977 chap) and Demons of the Sea (coll 1992 chap) edited by Sam Gafford; the latter also contains three of Hodgson's essays, including the futuristic Satire "Date 1965: Modern Warfare" (24 December 1908 The New Age).

In order to retain US copyright protection, Hodgson arranged for privately printed editions of drastically condensed versions of several of his books. The short excerpt from The Night Land, initially issued in "Poems"; And, a Dream of X (coll 1912 chap); it differs from A Dream of X (1977 chap); the abridgement of four Carnacki stories in Carnacki, the Ghost Finder, and a Poem (coll 1910 chap) is reprinted alongside the condensed novel from The Ghost Pirates, a Chaunty and Another Story (coll 1909 chap) in Spectral Manifestations (coll 1984 chap).

In Hodgson's first-published novel, The Boats of the "Glen Carrig": Being an Account of Their Adventures in the Strange Places of the Earth [for full subtitle see Checklist] (1907), a ship's crew is marooned on an Island near a land of floating seaweed inhabited by bizarre and terrible lifeforms. In the second part a marooned ship is besieged by tentacled, beaked "weed men" from the sea. His next novel, The House on the Borderland: From the Manuscript, discovered in 1877 by Messrs Tonnison and Berreggnog, in the Ruins that lie to the South of the Village of Kraighten, in the West of Ireland Set out here, with Notes (1908), is a remarkable visionary tale: a man living in a house, which apparently co-exists in two worlds (see Dimensions), undertakes an allegorical spiritual odyssey through time and space, witnessing the destruction of the Solar System; his vigil in the house, which is located at the rim of a vast Portal [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] into the illimitable, has become a classic example of Horror in SF. The man is victimized by "swine-things" from the parallel world that find their way into his, beings echoed on a vaster scale by the titular entity of the Carnacki tale "The Hog" (already cited). The Ghost Pirates (1909) also juxtaposes the known world with an alien counterpart as a ship "slips" into intermediacy and its crew witness strange and frightening manifestations. Hodgson's last-published novel, The Night Land: A Love Story (1912; cut 1921), describes in a peculiar mock-archaic style an epic Far-Future journey across the face of a much altered and monstrously populated Earth, away from and then back towards a Last Redoubt from which it may be possible to witness the End of the World. The Redoubt – an immense Keep defended by a kind of Force Field – is besieged by vast, unknown and unknowable entities that were allowed to materialize by the tampering of Scientists. The style of the book weirdly resembles the style of Charles M Doughty's poetry, and is very much less assured than the superficially similar style of E R Eddison. All four novels were reprinted as The House on the Borderland and Other Novels (omni 1946); and from that date Hodgson's influence, previously subterranean, began to become evident. A novel like Greg Bear's City at the End of Time (2008), which homages The Night Land, is only the latest (though perhaps the fullest) manifestation of this conversation of influence. Specific Sequels by Other Hands include The Night Land: A Story Retold (2011) by James Stoddard. [BS/JC/LW/DRL]

see also: Adrian Ross; Biology; Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award; Cosmology; Fantastic Voyages; Forgotten Futures; History of SF; Messiahs; Monsters; Parallel Worlds; Pulp; Religion; Stars; Sun.

William Hope Hodgson

born Blackmore End, Essex: 15 November 1877

died Ypres, France: 17 April 1918


collections and stories


Manuscript Series

  • Goddess of Death (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared April 1904 The Royal Magazine: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • The Mystery of the Ship in the Night (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared 1 July 1914 The Red Magazine as "The Stone Ship": Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • From the Tideless Sea (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared April 1906 Monthly Story Magazine: plus August 1907 Blue Book as "More News from the Homeland": Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Old Golly (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared December 1919 Short Stories: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • The Terrible Derelict (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared July 1907 The Storyteller as "The Derelict": Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Sea-Horses (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared March 1913 The London Magazine: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Homeward Bound (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared April 1908 Putnam's Magazine as "The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder": Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • The Riven Night (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared April 1973 Shadow: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • The Baumhoff Explosive (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared Fall 1973 Weird Tales: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Room of Fear (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared June 1983 Etchings & Odysseys: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Heaving of the Log (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Valley of Lost Children (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: first appeared February 1906 The Cornhill Magazine: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • The Phantom Ship (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • The Ways of the Heathens (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Fifty Dead Chinamen All in a Row (Madison, Wisconsin: The Strange Company, 1988) [story: chap: Manuscript Series: pb/nonpictorial]

Collected Stories

early collections and short stories (selected)

later collections and stories (selected)

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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